- Country Overview
- Communication Habits by Demographic Groups
- Religious Media Content - A Cable TV Phenomenon
- News Television in Pakistan: Who's Watching?
- News on the Radio: What Choices do Pakistanis have?
- Attitudes towards News and Information
- High News Consumers: A Profile
- Media Outlet Matrix
- Country Statistics
- Survey Methodology
KEY COMMUNICATION AND DEVELOPMENT WEBSITES AND PROJECTS
Pakistan Country Overview
Click Icons Above To Access Information On Specific Media/ICTs In Pakistan
Pakistan Media Access Overview
Pakistan’s media has transformed in the last decade from a state run sector to a crowded and nearly saturated market with many satellite television channels, FM stations and newspapers.
Television and radio channels, along with newspapers, are available in English, Urdu and a number of regional languages such as Punjabi and Sindhi. However, the biggest change in the media landscape has been in the television market. The state-run Pakistan Television Corporation still operates six terrestrial channels, but residents with cable and satellite access can watch more than 90 private television stations licensed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). 
The new satellite television networks are popular with the urban middle class in Pakistan. According to the Pakistan Institute of Public Opinion (PIPO) 2010 Media Report, 81 percent of Pakistanis said that they watch television (both terrestrial and cable combined). Compared to 2008, based on television viewership figures from the BBC for that year that were analyzed by InterMedia, there hasn’t been a substantial increase in these figures (however the two surveys are not directly comparable due to methodological and sampling differences).
Of those who said they watch television, close to 80 percent are regular watchers  (meaning they watch more than four times a week, see figure 2). Fifty five percent of those who watch television said they have access to cable and satellite channels.
Many of these channels have a news or religious focus. News channels are popular for their primetime talk shows that combine news and discussion in an entertaining format, while religious channels are popular for their talk shows focusing on social issues through a religions lens. There are also more entertainment channels on cable and satellite television than on state TV, giving Pakistanis with cable or satellite television more options.
Among literate Pakistanis, newspapers have historically played an important role in media and civil society. In comparison to other media, print publications have enjoyed the greatest level of freedom since the establishment of Pakistan as an independent state in 1947; largely because it has a lower impact in a country with high levels of illiteacy. While electronic broadcasting was subject to monopolistic state control for long periods, print largely avoided this fate. But the 2010 PIPO report shows that 25 percent of the population reads newspapers; of these, close to half are occasional or regular readers (at least once a week). This makes newspapers in English, Urdu and regional languages more popular than radio, which is unlike the pattern in most developing nations. Low levels of English literacy means that the English language press is only able to reach elite audiences. English language press thus tends to enjoy greater freedom than Urdu and regional language newspapers.
Only 21 percent of the respondents interviewed said they listen to radio- although of these, half are regular listeners, who listen more than four times a week.
In the 1990s, Pakistanis only had the option of listening to Radio Pakistan. In the past decade, however, PEMRA has issued licenses for more than 100 private FM radio channels across the country. Even so, private FM stations are not allowed to broadcast news in Pakistan. That right is restricted to the 31 state-run channels and international broadcasters such as the BBC, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. Note that PEMRA has suspended some broadcasting licenses for international broadcasters (for more, see Radio section).
For most urban and higher-income Pakistanis, even though radio news options are limited, cable channels and newspapers present enough options for news and information from a diverse range of sources. But radio is still the prevalent news medium in rural and remote locations, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. An average of 73 percent of KPK residents said they listen to radio regularly (20 percentage points higher than national average; FATA regions were not surveyed due to instability and security reasons).
These rural and remote regions thus face a notable information deficit - commercial stations are available but are not authorized to broadcast news and information; televisions and cable/satellite access are expensive; and low literacy and remote locations prevent newspapers from reaching a wide audience. State-run radio and a handful of international broadcasters are about the only media choices for Pakistanis in remote locations. Meanwhile, there has been a rapid rise of extremist radio stations and publications in these regions that actively compete for attention with the state-run Radio Pakistan and international broadcasters. The rise of illegal extremist media has paralleled a rise in terrorist attacks in the country. Affordable access to FM radio broadcasting technology, printing facilities and loose government control in the remote regions of FATA and KPK have allowed this proliferation.
Commenting on the overall mass media landscape, critics in Pakistan and outside  have raised alarms about the media environment in Pakistan. One issue they cite is the artificial diversity of information and opinion. Although there are more than one hundred cable channels available in Pakistan, most belong to one of a small number of television networks or media houses. Many of these media conglomerates, such as Jang Group, own prominent newspapers and magazines. As media groups become more powerful in Pakistan, some journalists complain that the groups can project political bias and a subjective slant across all of their media outlets.
Another issue is the increase in sensational coverage on Pakistan’s satellite news channels and newspapers. Outlets in different languages (English, Urdu or other regional languages such as Punjabi, Sindhi, etc) can be substantially different in their stance and reporting. For example, the English language newspapers tend to follow Western style formats and reporting standards, whereas Urdu and regional language newspapers appear to be more sensational and entertainment based in their coverage. Lack of information and a tendency for sensationalizing news has been the recent criticism for many of the news talk shows on cable news channels as well.
Wajahat Ali, a prominent Pakistani journalist, says that whenever a terrorist attack is covered, journalists are encouraged to flash death tolls and gruesome images. In many of the news-based talk shows, cantankerous pundits polarize debates. While the media in Pakistan has played a crucial role in highlighting government corruption since 2007, coverage of the recent political turmoil and increase in terrorist violence has been characterized as inflammatory, emotionally charged and dangerously subjective. The Western media has also recently commented on the anti-American stance of the private media. The United States Institute of Peace reports that women, ethnic and religious minorities are often portrayed in a negative and disparaging fashion, if their circumstances are addressed by the media at all.
Another important consideration to this expanded news and information space is the high cost of access that low income and rural residents may not be able to afford. Although the introduction of new satellite and cable channels has helped to educate and inform much of Pakistani society, PEMRA’s bifurcation of the TV market between terrestrial and satellite/cable has actually limited low-income and many rural residents from being able to consume independent media.
Mobile and Internet
Pakistan, like many other developing countries, has seen an explosion in its mobile communications market in recent years. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority reported a 65.4 percent mobile density (the number of mobile phones in use for every 100 individuals) and 108,894,518 subscribers in June 2011. The number of subscribers has increased threefold since 2005. After exponential growth between 2003 and 2007, the mobile communications market has begun to plateau with urban areas becoming saturated. Increased competition has lowered the cost of use, opening the market to low-income earners and spurring the creation of new mobile activities, including branchless banking and social networking applications.
Figure 3: Pakistan Mobile: Ownership versus Access
Source: PIPO 2010 and 'Mobile Life Pakistan Report : Gilani Research Foundation 2010. Sample sizes for both these figures were different.
Based on the PIPO 2010 survey, 47 percent of the population personally own a mobile phone. There is a huge gender disparity in ownership of mobile phone instruments- of all mobile owners, only 27 percent are women. However, when it came to use, genders showed roughly equal use (Figure 3). This might mean a large amount of sharing of mobile phones among families- while men might claim ownership, women seem to have indirect access. Such stark difference between ownership and use were not observed when broken down by age groups or income groups.
Forty percent of mobile owners said they sent SMS and most of those sent messages in Urdu using the English alphabet - a fact that development practitioners should keep in mind while targeting respondents using mobile phones (more information in mobile report).
Internet access and use, on the other hand, remains limited to the urban elite. The Internet Market Report from Gilani Research Foundation says that in 2010, four percent of Pakistanis claim to be using the internet, regularly or casually. Though this is low at the national level but access is higher in some sections of the population. For instance, it is over 10 percent in the Karachi Region and seven percent in Northern Punjab (mainly capital territory Islamabad and Rawalpindi). Most of these internet users are overwhelmingly male (81 percent) and urban (68 percent). Further diffusion of the internet is likely to make a strong impact on the media scene in Pakistan- however presently; it may not be a good medium to target Pakistanis through. Internet use on mobile phones is also four percent among mobile phone owners. Unlike some other markets- where cheap internet cafes can increase access to a larger section of society- most of the internet users in Pakistan said they accessed the internet at home (50 percent). Around 20 percent accessed it at the office or at an internet café. Interestingly 41 percent of internet users use it to access TV, radio or newspaper websites (see Figure 4).
This report was written by Gayatri Murthy- Senior Research Associate at InterMedia
 Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Huma Yusuf Pg 3
 The PIPO 2010 Media report classified media users for each medium in the following order: Casual (less than once a week), Occasional (at least once a week and up to 3 times a week) and Regular (4 times a week or more).
 Huma Yusuf for the Wilson Center, and USIP briefings